I have felt the flighting spirit close,
brought to bay and strapped onto your turning cross
to be filtered clean;
while my simple sequences collapsed
to pass their fitting through your gauge,
Although I had been sentenced when times changed,
to official mercy, then also to redemption,
I could still draw breath –
with no direction and no home, only the moment, only measures,
turning notch by notch and prong and hidden tooth by gear –
but degree upon degree, we spent our seconds chasing minutes
heedless of your basalt face that lowers, hidden
over all our heads…
Meantime: the glass drains empty, batteries fall flat
while inner pressure will increase, inexorably – until
all my dreams are fled
(and hopes and fantasies and otherness)
just as your final persevering chase must find me,
naked and alone
The high road looked attractive then, and different –
a noble prospect of escape and opportunity:
a sure laconic fast-track to success, in a future
that would thrive on merit and good fortune.
And away: From small-town strictures and constraints
contained within a worn out past,
from the voices who had led and nurtured us
and the sirens that had formed us;
from the grounds on which we’d lightly walked
when we first met the world.
Now youth: Where have you gone? Spent
on aspirations and conformity to others’ expectations
with outcomes fingered shakily, perhaps indelibly,
in a pale grey scalpel trace of memory.
Leaving us: Continuing, to elude or to confront
a dilemma woven deeply in the fibre
of exiles’ recurring thoughts of home: To forever mourn
the lost homeland, or make the best of it and carry on?
Mourning? In futility, but unavoidably,
to experience what we cannot bear but have invited in;
we – the rootless, the dispossessed, the disinherited
with our (bittersweet and plangent) longings
for no-longer-knowns we feel but keep unseen
and tenderly describe as being all that there once was –
we are waiting in forlorn agonies of wishing, hoping
for a moment that will never come.
And anyway, we carry on, because we do;
until we find release, until we are renewed.
Empty thoughts: a dry river in the night.
Condemned to forever replay – and enjoy –
a game whose rules are crossed
so we can never win, only hope;
endlessly forgetting the result.
More real than a clear sunrise
on a beautiful cold morning
because it touches us directly;
mere humans and yet more.
We, the godless, and our longing.
Our strange mistress, unkind,
unsentimental, alien and strange,
consumes our fat and leaves us lean,
transfiguring what’s left,
transformed in her devotion,
until at last we’re bones,
transfixed by our desires;
committed to that most elusive of ideas,
in which, in truth,
we had no choice but to believe.
A futile longing, for some thing unknown,
someone half-glimpsed, disguised,
never possessed, only borrowed, perhaps hired.
How can this feel so much was lost?
What way is there to prove this concept?
(originally published in a different version, January 2013)
How could I?
> Forget the joy, the wonder, that made it
> Listen to your voice decry, denying all
> Confuse identity and difference, to treat them
just the same;
> Give, then give again, and keep on giving
to an ingrate;
> Push so hard for what was promised
by a child….
A child at heart: Stubbornly
Driven to reprise hard-core neglect,
Knowing how to learn but not to grow,
Or how to ask, or give, or even to receive;
Only overwhelming joy/despair, love/hate,
Dom/sub, in anger or acceptance;
With a triple-loaded cause to celebrate:
The Nativity; your Birthday; next Ne’erday;
As redemption; as renewal; as a time
To find the bitter charcoal taste of ash
We each made the other swallow,
Cleansed on new year’s day;
For you, a princess living on a hill, an
Imagined vivid Camelot of imagery and colour;
While outside (endlessly) rain falls, waters rise,
And the past is washed away:
Roots of the land, seeds of growth
And plenty, along with last year’s scars.
Having spent a lifetime trying
To make things as they should be,
Now I hear encouragement in voices
Giving permission to be happy;
But wonder: In what way is
“I want this” to be preferred to
“This is what I should do”?
Is it ethics, morals or survival?
For what I’ve built has weighed
So heavily on the earth it
Can no more support the burden
And has given way beneath,
Transferring back to me
Who cannot bear alone
What I mainly shaped for one;
With duly considered irony.
But. Now. (With all my faults
And frailty and fairness fallen short)
How can I leave this high ground –
Overlooked though it may be –
When it’s all that I have lived in
Since my childhood world has gone
As if it never was?
Without anger, only loss.